As a diehard fan of the original Transformers series and the 1986 movie, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when I say that Michael Bay’s take on the waring robots was a letdown – and that’s putting it nicely. However, I’m happy to report that Netflix’s latest interpretation of The Transformers franchise is absolutely stellar.
The opening episode plays like a much more serious version of the opening sequence in the 2018 Bumblebee movie. The visuals and story beats are all too familiar, but the dramatic shift in tone will be the defining characteristic that firmly establishes the new series’ significance.
Similar to the original cartoon’s pilot, Bumblebee and Wheeljack scrounge for Energon while trying to avoid capture by the Decepticon squadron of jets known as the Seekers. Right away, the tone of the series is as cold and rough as the inhabitants of planet Cybertron. For instance, Bumblebee is no longer a naive Autobot but a hardened survivor with no allegiance and an interest in getting paid for his services that would make Han Solo proud.
Everyone in this series is tired and desperate, which highlights the scope and scale of this civil war. The iconic factions of Autobot and Decepticon are still as clear-cut as ever, but their ideologies are much more complex. Both Ultra Magnus and Bumblebee have lines of dialogue that illustrate just how complicated this war is. Winning the war doesn’t amount to anything if the entire race dies out.
The scene that defines this school of thought is Bumblebee’s choice not to join Optimus Prime’s crusade. As he leaves, Elita-1 and Hound stop him and are prepared to put the robot down for fear that he could expose their base of operations. Optimus pulls rank and orders the soldiers to let the lone bot go, reminding the Autobot ranks that they are not the Decepticons.
The bleak tone provides the series with a lot of avenues to explore the moral quandary of both factions. It’s also an environment that would be perfect for the Wreckers. An elite group of Autobot soldiers sent on covert missions that often times lack a clear defining line of right or wrong. They do what has to be done in order to win the war. Essentially, this series is the Star Wars: Rogue One for the Cybertronian wars, and goes to great pains to show that even the good guys live in shades of grey.
Even if you’ve never seen anything Transformers related, this is a great jumping on point. While the timeline isn’t explicitly stated, the characters seem to be adjusting to a new status quo. Optimus looks battle hardened, yet he seems to lack experience and has an air of immaturity as opposed to his traditional stern-yet-wise persona. Hopefully, new audiences will be able to see the iconic leader develop into the more definitive version of himself.
Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy truly is the beginning of something good. This iteration is a perfect blend of new and old (so far, anyway). Even the character designs are similar to their Generation One counterparts, albeit with more intricate details somewhat reminiscent of the Bay Transformers mashed with a the cel-shaded coloring technique of the video game Transformers: Devastation. That said, even the voice actors for Optimus Prime and Megatron are fine substitutes for Peter Cullen and Frank Welker respectively. If you’re still on the fence about this series, do yourself a favour and check it out.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511